GameDay Magazine Features
Sept. 11, 2002
Sky’s the Limit
by Trent Packer
University of Virginia senior linebacker Angelo Crowell’s career has been a study in constant improvement. From a freshman campaign where he started just one game to a junior year where he set the UVa all-time single season record for total tackles, Crowell has worked progressively harder each of his three years as a member of the Cavaliers. His intense on-and-off-the-field effort has culminated in Crowell being named to various All-America lists heading into his final season in blue and orange. The senior now stands as Virginia’s defensive leader, a team captain, and a candidate for the prestigious Bronko Nagurski Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player. Crowell, who was singled out by head coach Al Groh last season as a mainstay in the football offices during both the regular season and the off season, attributes his success to the intensity with which he prepares himself for practices and games.
“The tension is the name of the game,” Crowell says of his approach. “If you don’t have any tension out there, then your level of play suffers. When you raise your level of tension, everything just picks up from there.”
Two seasons ago, during his sophomore campaign, Crowell quietly put together an outstanding year. He finished fourth on the team with 87 total tackles and even cracked the starting lineup for four games. The problem was, he was playing behind a trio of experienced senior linebackers, including longtime starters Yubrenal Isabelle and Byron Thweatt. Isabelle and Thweatt went on to record 128 and 125 tackles, respectively, good for fifth and eighth on the all-time season tackles list. Crowell’s play, while impressive, was obscured by the performance of his fellow defensive players.
Nevertheless, Crowell took the lessons he learned playing behind two of Virginia’s most accomplished defensive players and began his march into the record books.
“Byron Thweatt, Isabelle, Earl Sims, all of those guys, the whole linebacker corps, helped me a lot,” Crowell says. ” If there was something I didn’t understand, I would ask them before I would ask the coach.”
The knowledge Crowell gleaned from his more veteran teammates, coupled with his incredible work ethic and a new coaching staff and defensive scheme, gave the 2001 second-team All-ACC performer the tools to become a dominant player. He went on to register a school-record 144 tackles in 2001. He also left his mark as one of Virginia’s most resilient performers in 2001, missing less than 10 plays from scrimmage the entire season. As a reward for his efforts, Crowell himself is now charged with the task of helping the younger players on this year’s team develop their own intensity.
“[Our job as veterans is to teach the younger players] what we expect and what the coaches are expecting out of them everyday,” Crowell says of his role as a veteran. What’s more, as a captain, Crowell must be willing to assume the mantle of team leadership. By selecting him as one of two captains, his teammates have expressed their desire to see him take on an active leadership role, and Crowell knows how important it is that he do so.
“[Being chosen as a captain] is a great honor,” Crowell says. “Your teammates think of you that highly, and really want you to step up and be the leader of the team. It is definitely more of a leadership role for me. I have never really been in a leadership role before in my life, so I really have had to realize that guys are looking up to me and watching how I play.”
This year it is more important than ever that Crowell, fellow co-captain Billy McMullen, and the rest of the team’s veterans, set a tone for the rest of the team. Virginia’s 2002 incoming freshman class is one of the most highly regarded in recent memory and the team will rely on its underclassmen to play a significant role. Despite the talent level, without proper direction from their older teammates, the younger players could easily become overwhelmed. It is up to Crowell, McMullen, and the others to ensure that does not happen.
“[There] is definitely a lot of talent out there; now it’s up to us to get them ready to play,” Crowell says. “Our main thing is to just integrate them into our system for the better good of the team. I think a lot of the guys have a lot of talent and they can help in some areas. We have to take them under our wings and just get them ready to play.”
Aside from being a senior and a captain, Crowell also has the benefit of having played a full season in Groh’s and defensive coordinator Al Golden’s defensive scheme. Crowell put together his record-breaking season while playing in the scheme last season, and he looks forward to continuing to improve within the defense this year.
“I know the defense [and] that is a tremendous change [from last year],” Crowell says. “We just love [the defense] and we can just go out and make plays.”
Instead of having to learn an entirely new system, the team can concentrate on getting rid of the problems that plagued the Cavaliers at times last year.
“Last year we beat ourselves a lot,” Crowell observes. “We know what it takes to get it done this year. We are coming in expecting not to make the same mistakes we did last year.”
The learning process could be a tedious one for a team still adjusting to a new system, new coaches, and an influx of new talent. Nevertheless, Crowell contends that winning can certainly make the process go a lot more smoothly.
“I feel like if we are winning, everything else will fall into place,” Crowell says.
While it remains to be seen whether UVa can in fact integrate its new players in time to compete against one of the toughest schedules in recent memory, Crowell forthcoming success appears to be a given. After steadily maturing into one of the country’s toughest linebackers over the course of his career, it appears that the sky is the limit for Crowell this season.
Product of Two Great Football Traditions
by Abby Crawford
Being part of a winning tradition is not uncommon to former four-year Virginia football letterman Derek Dooley. During his collegiate career as a Cavalier wide receiver (from 1986 to 1990), the ‘Hoos won the All-American Bowl, clinched their first ACC Championship, had their first 10-win season, participated in their first New Year’s Day Bowl and had their first number-one ranking by The Associated Press.
Dooley’s place among winners did not begin or end with his time at the University, however. As the son of the winningest football coach in University of Georgia history- Vince Dooley-and as the recruiting coordinator for the defending Southeastern Conference champion Louisiana State University football team, Dooley has actually been winning, on the field and in life, every step of the way.
Dooley’s tremendous athletic heritage includes his father, Vince, and his uncle, Bill, a former All-SEC guard at Mississippi State. Bill went on to coach college football at the University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Vince played football and basketball at Auburn University, and was the head football coach at Georgia from 1964-1988. In addition, he has served as the athletic director at Georgia since 1979. Together the two elder Dooleys comprise the winningest brother tandem in college football.
Growing up in Athens, Ga., Derek Dooley was surrounded by Bulldog football and fanfare. Yet, like many other college-bound youths, he decided he wanted to broaden his horizons and move away from home.
“I needed to get away from home and be off on my own. I wanted to go out and make a name for myself. Once I set foot on the [Grounds at Virginia], I fell in love with the place,” Dooley said.
Despite several scholarship offers from other schools, Dooley opted to join the Virginia football program as a walk-on. He was red-shirted as freshman in 1986 and later received a football grant-in-aid before the start of the 1988-89 academic year.
“I came to Virginia because I wanted to prove to myself and the coaches that I could play at the college level,” Dooley said.
And prove himself he did. After playing three seasons as a valuable reserve wide receiver and on special teams, Dooley started in eight games as a senior wideout in 1990. He finished second on the team in receptions (27) and third in receiving yardage (422) that season, and caught two touchdown passes. For his career, the steady, sure-handed receiver caught 41 passes for 604 yards and three touchdowns. He was twice named to the ACC Honor Roll for his academic work and athletic participation. Following his senior season, he was invited to play in the Senior Bowl.
Dooley attributes much of his success at Virginia to the strong backing he received from his fellow Cavalier teammates, whom he remembers fondly. Playing with Virginia greats such as Shawn Moore and Terry Kirby, and under the tutelage of then head coach George Welsh, Dooley remembers the undying passion and fun with which those teams played the game.
“We were always having fun and didn’t play uptight, from Coach Welsh all the way down. Coach Welsh was always honest. Some players may not have liked it, but you always knew where you stood. In the long run, I think we all appreciated that. One of the things I admired about Coach was his daily consistency,” Dooley said.
Dooley has since tried to incorporate many of Welsh’s teachings into his professional life, first as a lawyer and later as a college football coach. After graduating from Virginia, Dooley attended law school at the University of Georgia, where he earned his law degree and worked as a football graduate assistant coach. He practiced law for a year-and-a-half, but his football roots ran deep and he returned to coaching.
Dooley began his coaching career in 1997 as the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator at SMU. In 2000, LSU head coach Nick Saban was looking for a new assistant for his staff. Saban’s desire to find someone young enough to relate to the players but also understand the hard work and determination it takes to win at the college level led him to hire Dooley.
Now in his third season at LSU, Dooley continues to serve as the team’s recruiting coordinator while also coaching the tight ends. His 2001 recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the nation by several recruiting publications and included three Parade All-Americans and six USA Today All-Americans.
Clearly at home on the football sidelines, Dooley continues to add to his own winning legacy and his family’s rich football heritage. “He is one of the brightest young coaches I have had the opportunity to meet,” praises Saban.
Fielding a Great Result
by Chip Rogers
As the University of Virginia football team continues its march towards gridiron excellence, it comes as no surprise that parts of the program have already been recognized for their achievements. In 2001, UVA’s David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium earned the Sports Turf Managers Association Football Field of the Year in the College/University Division. The maintenance of the field is under the direction of Jimmy Rodgers, CSFM (Certified Sports Field Manager), a two-year veteran of the University of Virginia athletic department staff, and his staff of Henry Shifflett and Tracy Burge.
Excellence in sports is nothing new to Rodgers, a Pennsylvania native who has participated in athletics in some capacity since he was seven, including a two-year stint as the captain of Colgate’s baseball team and a like term as the General Manager of the Appleton Baseball Club in Appleton, Wisc. While in Appleton as the GM, Rodgers was responsible for all of the day-to-day functions of the club, including the care of the baseball field. For someone who grew up on a dairy farm, grass care was not a new thing to Rodgers. It was, however, the opening to a career that combined a love of athletics with an agronomic twist.
After leaving Appleton, Rodgers spent two years as an assistant groundskeeper for professional baseball clubs, working with the Richmond Braves for a year before moving to Melbourne, Fla. for a stint with the Florida Marlins. In Richmond, Rodgers worked at the Diamond in preparation for both the R-Braves and the VCU baseball games, while in Melbourne Rodgers was instrumental in the building and maintenance of the Carl Berger Baseball Complex that consists of six-and-a-half major league fields. Following a brief foray into a private agricultural enterprise, Rodgers returned to the collegiate ranks as the Athletic Grounds Supervisor at George Mason University in Fairfax. At GMU, Rodgers was responsible for all facets of the athletic grounds, including a major renovation from bluegrass/rye blends to Bermuda grass. For four years Rodgers oversaw the care of 16 acres of sports turf, and along the way picked up numerous accolades, including a third-place finish in the annual “Beam Clay/STMA Collegiate Baseball Field of the Year” contest in 1999 and a nod by the FIFA/Women’s World Cup site committee to host a practice venue for the sporting event in the same year.
In June of 2000, Rodgers moved down the road to Charlottesville to assume his current duties as the Sports Field Manager for the University of Virginia. Now he directs 23 acres of sports turf for the Cavaliers, a job that keeps him just as busy as the coaches who play on the fields.
David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium was dedicated in September of 1995. The stadium, which was completed in 1931, had an artificial field surface from 1974 to 1994 and was the home of the men’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and field hockey teams during that period. The Motz Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, handled the installation of the field in the 1995 project, installing the Motz PAT system of sand-based profile. In April of 2001, Carolina Green Corporation of Indian Trail, N.C., engineered a renovation and resodding of the field, a project coordinated by Rodgers.
Each year in March, Rodgers and his crew start the mowing process, cutting the grass just shy of an inch high. Core aeration begins in April while in May the fields are cut at 5/8″ and topdressing begins. In June, Rodgers and his staff dethatch and then in July, six weeks before the field is first used, another cultivation is performed and the cores are removed and slice aeration starts three weeks before the first scrimmage, often in late July.
During the season, sometime before the first killing frost, the field maintenance crew overseeds the field with perennial ryegrass, a task that keeps Rodgers and his men busy throughout the end of the football season. For pre-game practices, clippings are collected and removed only after mowing the day prior to games and on game day. Field painting begins on Tuesday of game week and is completed by Thursday, allowing Friday to be used for a rain day and for touchups.
While most fans might not be aware, the field actually does switch surfaces during the course of the season. The first two games are often played on straight Bermuda grass before the perennial ryegrass is established.
As the Virginia football team continues its climb to national prominence, the ‘Hoos make more and more appearances on television. Care and maintenance of the field is thus placed on a national stage, and Rodgers and his crew are up to the task, making sure that the field is in excellent condition from a playing standpoint as well as a viewing standpoint.
Because Charlottesville is in a transitional climate zone, Rodgers has a consistent challenge with differing weather patterns for which he must prepare. Often, by late September, it gets much colder at night which means that Rodgers and his staff must exercise a wide variety of strategies to optimize the playing surface and maintain a vibrant green color. To achieve this end, Rodgers uses irrigation and field covers to keep the frost off the turf, allowing the grass to retain the bright hue.
Rodgers is quick to recognize his staff in the preparation of the fields. “I have what I consider the best grounds crew in America. Henry Shifflett brings an agricultural background to our program, and Tracy Burge brings extensive golf course experience. The three of us have molded all that together in our comprehensive maintenance program.”
Rodgers’ care of fields exends beyond football. Klockner Stadium was recognized by womenlacrosse.com as the outstanding venue for lacrosse games in the nation, citing its excellent field as a major aspect of the selection.
“The University of Virginia Athletic Department is to be commended for its commitment of financial resources not only to provide quality facilites for its athletes, but also to enable us to develop and execute the field management program to maintain the best possible field conditions,” Rodgers says. Combining a vast amount of knowledge and expertise with good old-fashioned hard work, Rodgers and his staff clearly take pride in what they do–and it shows.
‘Hoos look to start September on a positive note
by Chip Rogers
The Cavaliers take the field against South Carolina tonight for their first game in September, hoping that the new month gives them a new start for the 2002 season. After a tough loss to Colorado State to open the season, the youthful Cavaliers fell to fifth-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee last weekend. Virginia scored the final two touchdowns of the game against the Seminoles, however, which will hopefully give the team some positive momentum upon which to build.
Virginia faced ACC-rival Florida State in the inaugural conference game of the ACC’s 50th anniversary season, but the conference’s newest member didn’t show long-time league member UVa any deference in the 40-19 victory. The Seminoles jumped out to a 23-0 lead at halftime, despite several strong defensive stops by the Cavalier defense. A fumble recovery at the one-yard line stopped Florida State in the red zone once, and Chris Williams intercepted a Chris Rix pass in the end zone as the first half came to an end, thus stopping another Florida State threat.
Following intermission, the Seminoles tacked on another touchdown and added a field goal to take a 33-0 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Led by quarterback Matt Schaub, the cavaliers outscored the Seminoles 19-7 in the fourth quarter. Schaub, who came off the bench in the first half, completed 19 of 25 passes for 247 yards and threw for three touchdowns. His first scoring strike came early in the fourth quarter as he threw an 11-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller to get the Cavaliers on the board. After the Seminoles scored one final touchdown, Virginia took over for the remainder of the game. With 5:40 left in the contest, Schaub found tight end Patrick Estes for a nine-yard TD pass play. Finally, exhibiting a never-say-die attitude, the Cavaliers notched a final strike with just 24 seconds remaining as Schaub completed a four-yard pass to wide receiver Ottawa Anderson.
“There have been a lot of teams that came into this place [Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium] that when the score is 33-0 it finished up 68-3,” said Virginia head football coach Al Groh.
The Cavaliers get to test that inner resolve again tonight against the Gamecocks. South Carolina, a former member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, was ranked 13th nationally by the AP and the ESPN/USA Today polls at the end of last season following a 31-28 victory in the Outback Bowl over Ohio State. South Carolina opened its 2002 season with a 34-24 victory over New Mexico State last weekend.
The Cavaliers and the Gamecocks were both members of the ACC from 1953-1971. The two teams played 15 times during that period but have played only six times since then. The Cavaliers won the most recent contest in Charlottesville, 30-20, in 1986.
The Gamecocks are coached by Lou Holtz, who recently won his 234th college football game, and ranks fifth on the all-time wins list in the NCAA. Holtz’s starting quarterback is Corey Jenkins, a senior who made his first career start in last week’s win. Jenkins is a former first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox who opted for a stint in college football, and, at age 26, is starting for the first time. In the New Mexico State game, Jenkins threw for 166 yards on 9-of-18 passing. While the fans at Wallace-Brice Stadium did not see the huge margin of victory they were expecting from the then-#22 team, it was a memorable victory for the Gamecocks. It was against New Mexico State that South Carolina broke its 21-game losing streak just two years ago. Since that time under Holtz, the Gamecocks have risen to a top-15 ranking nationally and earned a New Year’s Day bowl berth.